Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yes, Even Though It Is Hard.

Reflection on Lk. 13:31-35

Previous to this Gospel scene was the call of Jesus to repentance. Repentance is what will make us "recline  at table in the Kingdom of God." But before the day ended, some Pharisees came to Him and asked Him to go away because of the threat of Herod to kill Him. It was not really a concern for Jesus but for fear that they will be blamed for what happened to Him. Jesus had already gained a lot of following and the Pharisees do not know what the crowd will do in case something happened to Jesus. But Jesus was not afraid. He knew the consequences of His action. He knew His fate in Jerusalem. Prophets had met their fate in Jerusalem. His fate will not be different.

The mention of the days (today, tomorrow, and the third day, including the half day He was spending) were significant to the Jewish listeners of Jesus, and thus to us too today. Those days refer to days of persecution and rejection. Jesus was giving the message that we will also have our days of persecution when we live our being prophets of God. Christian life is not a bed of roses. In our quest to preach the Gospel, many will reject us. Many will taunt us and make fun of us for believing in the Word. But as Jesus said in His lament over Jerusalem, "Behold, your house will be abandoned. But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Those who will reject the Word will suffer. Those who will not listen would experience the pain of longing for the presence of God. It will be the severest longing anyone could experience. Having had the chance to hear and be graced by the Word, but decided instead to be take it for granted, they suffer the consequence of only hearing it again at the final judgment.

The suffering is worth it. At least our Lord Jesus was honest about it. We have seen it happen to all the prophets. We have seen it happen even to the Lord Jesus, the Son of God! He grace us an example. He led and lived the way. It should inspire us more than make us afraid. It should give us courage more than weakness. It should make us hopeful and not desperate. And it should make us faithful and not doubtful. Quo Vadis? There is no other way, for Jesus is the Way! 

It is hard to believe; but it is harder not to believe. It is hard to be a Christian; but it is harder not to be one. It is hard to be one with God; but it is harder to be separated from Him. The choice is clear.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Law Must Lead To Love

Reflection on Lk. 13:10-17

jesus-crippled.bmp (322650 bytes)

When I was a seminarian, our Rector would post a note the week before final exams week advising us to study hard, and take care of our health. At the end of the note he says, "During Final Exam week, nobody is allowed to get sick!" Of course we knew that it was said in "tongue-in-cheek". Our Rector was reminding us that the coming week is very important that we can not afford to get sick. Unfortunately, this part of life is hard to control. All we can do is to avoid it in the best way we can. 

In the Gospel today, it seems that the leader of the synagogue, in his desire to implement the Sabbath, was serious in legislating sickness. Because Jesus cured on a Sabbath, he said to the crowd, "There are six days when work should be done. Come on those days to be cured, not on Sabbath Day." But Jesus would have nothing of it. For Him, anybody who is sick should be attended to immediately, Sabbath or no Sabbath. For Jesus, Sabbath was made for man and not man for Sabbath. Jesus showed the leader the real spirit behind the law on Sabbath. Yes, there must be a day dedicated to worship God, but the law of love prevails. The leaders of the synagogue was called hypocrites by Jesus because they too break the Sabbath, not for a neighbor, but for an ox or an ass! For them, the curing of a woman bounded by Satan for eighteen years is less important than caring for their animals. 

Laws are important. Even God gave us the Ten Commandments as guides towards our journey to the Kingdom. Every community, family, or group have laws and guidelines to assist them towards their destiny. Laws help us to obtain a discipline. Constant adherence to the law helps us imbibe the spirit of the law and later achieve the goal of the law. Once we obtain the discipline, our lives become free of the law. The law now becomes our way of life. It is similar to using a map in order to reach destinations when we are in an unfamiliar place. The more we frequent the place using the same route, the more we get familiar to it. We even get to know other ways of reaching the place. Once we have been used to it, the map becomes useless. Life is a lot similar to that.

Christian life includes following some laws. We go to mass every Sunday. Regular going to mass hopefully should lead us to appreciating its value in our life. The singing, the responses, the listening to the Word of God, holy communion, professing the Creed, etc., should slowly lead us to a deeper understanding of the mass. Every Sunday that we encounter the Lord Jesus, in His Word, in His Body, in His priest, and in our neighbors, we gain a closer and meaningful relationship with God. When we come to a point when every Sunday celebration is not a burden but a celebration anymore, then the law has now been replaced with Love. We become lovers. They say that "love is blind." There is truth to it but only in the context that lovers see deeper! Because of love, they are capable of acting more than what the law could offer. When love becomes the law, life becomes fully lived.

God Recognizes The Repentant

Reflection on Lk. 13:22-30

The one who asked the Lord regarding how many people will be saved, was on the right track. Salvation is the foremost concern of anyone at all times. But he missed the point when he was more concerned about the number of people who will be saved. This was exposed when Jesus did not answer the question. He completely ignored it! Rather, He dwelt on the more important question of "how we can  one be saved?" For indeed, what will the knowledge of our chances of being saved do if we do not know the way to be saved? Numbers would give us an idea of our possibilities but they do not effect what we want to achieve.

The Lord Jesus said that the gate is narrow. The way to salvation is not easy. But if we do the right thing, we can inch our way in no matter how hard it is. Jesus corrected the thinking of some who believed that by being associated with Him, salvation is guaranteed. In our present context, He refers to those who pray, worship on Sundays, do acts of charity, make sacrifices, receive sacraments and others, but are not repentant. This seems incongruent. But it is true. There are people who can do pious things devoid of pious intentions. There are people who can do pious things but are internally not in union with God. We have heard of people who gave donations to charities but you wonder where those money were coming from?  People who join religious activities but do not extend the spirit of those activities to their housemates, friends, and clients. People who know the bible well but fail to put them into action with the right intention! The Pharisees were the perfect example of these things. Jesus called then "hypocrites", meaning "to act out" or "to play a part". Particularly it means "to preach a certain belief but, in fact, not holding those beliefs by oneself."

The surprise will be when they get to meet the Lord for judgment. The Lord will not recognize them. They may remind the Lord about the things they had done or their association with Him, but He will deny even their origin. To be recognized by the Lord, we have to have a repentant heart. Repentance is the "how" of salvation. We are saved when interiorly we are united with God. When everything we do comes from the heart that is sincere and repentant, then we have gained the key to the door of the Kingdom. This gives hope to everyone even those who are long and deep into sin. Responding to the grace of humility and repentance is the apple of God's merciful eyes.

Zacchaeus, a tax collector and known sinner in Jesus' time gained salvation because of his repentance. Matthew, also a tax collector was visited and invited by Jesus to be one of His apostles. He also repented. Peter denied the Lord thrice but repented later. he was made the leader of His Church. Judas Iscariot, if he repented instead of hanging himself, could have gained salvation too! Jesus might have said that the last will be first and the first will be last, but bottom line is, everyone who repents will make it. it does not matter whether you are the last or the first.

It's The Message, More Than The Name And The Linkage

Reflection on Lk. 6:12-16
Feast of Saints Simon and Jude Thaddeus, Apostles

Communion of the Apostles by Luca Signorelli

We remember the apostles for the lives they had lived. We recognize the witnessing they had done for the Lord Jesus. Because of them, the Lord Jesus becomes more present in His words and deed.

The call of the apostles revealed part of the plan of God. Salvation will begin in Israel (Chosen People) and from there, it will extend all over the world. God meant to include man in the work of salvation. This is reflective of the dynamics of salvation; (St. Augustine) " God created us without our consent; God will not save us without our consent." He first chose twelve men who will follow Him wherever He goes. Later, they will be sent to mission to those who are in need of salvation. What they had heard; what they had seen and looked at and what they had touched with their own hands, will be passed on to generation to generation for the salvation of all. Jesus was founding an organization which will continue to propagate the Christian faith. Now, we call that organization as the Church. 

There are questions today about which church is the true Church of Jesus Christ? Many groups claim, by their own reasons, as the True Church of Jesus Christ. Many appeal by the very name they call their Church. Some claim it because they can trace their roots in Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church, our faith and our church, does not give the former reason. We have a proof of the latter but even that is not our main reason why we claim to be the True Church of Jesus Christ. We are the True Church because we are faithful to the message that Jesus Christ had given during His ministry. This is the essence of the True Church. For even if we can trace our roots in detail to the Lord Jesus or use the very name He wants for His Church, the more important element of His true Church is the presence of His message of salvation. St. Paul experienced and realized this in the community where the original apostles lived. Paul claimed to be an apostle. The other apostles challenged it. Paul claimed that the Lord appeared to him on his way to Damascus. The risen Lord revealed to him the message of salvation. His claim of being an apostle was not just because of the appearance of the risen Christ to him but by the very message he preaches;

               "I am amazed that you are so quickly forsaking the one who called you 
                by the grace of Christ for a different Gospel. But there are some who are 
                disturbing you and wish to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, 
                or an angel form heaven should preached to you a gospel other than the 
                one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed! (Gal. 1:6-9)

Therefore, what matters is faithfulness to the message. We believe that these messages from the Lord Jesus had been preserved by the apostles like Simon and Jude. When the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded them to proclaim the Good News to all. The apostles acted as one in this mission. This mission and message (deposit of faith) were passed on from generation to generation. From the apostles,  the tasked is now given to the ordained ministry (Pope, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons)  and the baptized to proclaim the Good News of salvation. What we have received from the apostles is what we now profess. If it comes from the apostles, it must be true! Thanks to the apostles.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hard Life Made Easier

Reflection on Lk. 12:54-59

It should not happen, but it is happening. It should have been avoided, but it was not avoided. We have a lot to help us cope with the challenges of life, but we choose to ignore them. "History repeats itself.", the saying goes. This is the concern of Jesus in the Gospel today. He was speaking before people who are very much experienced in the behavior of the weather even if they do not have the modern gadgets that we have now. They know how to read signs. Their lives depend on it! But, they fail to apply it in other parts of their lives. The sign of Jesus fell flat on the ground. Jesus appeared to them and gave them many signs. But they ignored them. Jesus called them "hypocrites" as a result. For how can they read weather signs and fail to read clear and concrete signs like the miracles, the prophesies, and the teachings of Jesus! These signs were bursting with truths and critical messages for them.

This prompted Jesus to ask them why they are stubborn about doing what is right? Why sue and go to trial when they can settle outside of court? Why spend time, effort, and treasure for something that can be agreed? Even today, this is being repeated a lot of times. Instead of arranging an agreement, they resort to courts. Jesus had reasons to react because in the first place, God created an orderly universe. The world was meant to be peaceful. But we humans seem to prefer conflicts, disagreements, wars, violence, and other troubles. St. Paul pointed this out to the early Christians when because of their selfishness, they had begun destroying each other and in the process, destroying the community. 

Everybody wants peace and yet, the efforts being made to attain it are not enough. It seems that there is a lack of sincerity in achieving it. Also, it is possible that it is not enough for the sacrifice it will require. Nevertheless, it is necessary and ultimately, it must be gained. Hopefully, it will not be too late. The Lord's admonition is to avoid unwanted consequences. He prefers that we brace ourselves for the meaningful challenges. What we can settle, let us settle. What we can do, let us do it now. Let us make use of our God-given talents. let us make use of every opportunity to attain peace. Let us do what we can for we may never pass this way again. Life is short. Spending it for unnecessary sufferings is being hypocrite and proud. And as the oldies, like me, would say, "I am too old for this!"

The Power Of One

(This was written last May 4, 2005  for the Feast of the Holy Trinity. I found it in my files and I said it might be relevant especially when our society is being threatened by division. I also remembered the day when we reached our target of twenty-five million to cover the rest of the expenses for the construction of our church. !t was achieved because of being One. Our community lived and witness the essence of the Trinity. The title is very apt indeed!)
The Holy Trinity by  El Greco

My dear people of God,

Peace be with you!

As Catholic Christians, we believe in ONE GOD. But the experience of our elders showed that our God has three Persons; GOD the Father, GOD the Son, and GOD the Holy Spirit. We further believe that they are distinct from each other yet equal in divinity. In every divine action, all three persons are present. GOD acts as ONE. They acted and are still acting as ONE in CREATION. They ACT and still are acting as ONE in SALVATION.

The communion of the Trinity is not only for the Trinity. It is in fact a model for each Christian community. It is a model for our community. At present, we are tasked to build our church (our place of worship) and our Church (our community of believers). I have to admit that they are two great tasks. Only one needs to experience building a house to know and appreciate the difficulties, intricacies, and complexities of building a church. One only needs to experience the process of organizing a group to know and appreciate the demands, resources, and efforts and commitments needed to establish and put into action an active Church. Today, more than any day, we need every pair of hands, every willing mind, every generous heart, and every body to fulfill these tasks

While I have said during my installation that I came here not to build buildings but to build people, the tragedy of the burning of our church made me redefine it. I am now here to build people through the building of our church with you and with the grace of God! It is our church. This is our community. I will be here to be with you and guide you in achieving our tasks. My ministry is at the service of all souls in this community as long as I am here. But we can achieve better if you are with me. If we will combine all our God-given talents, God will surely see us through. I earnestly encourage you to share not only what you have but most especially yourself. Together we will build our church and our Church. That is the power of being ONE; being ONE of the Trinity and the being ONE of the community.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jesus, The Rock That Makes Me Roll.

Reflection on Lk. 12:49-53

Two statements here are un-Jesus-like. " I have come to bring fire on earth and how I wish it were already kindled." and "Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No. I tell you, rather, division." Was Jesus serious when He said this? Was He not a peacemaker? Was He not an advocate of  forgiveness and kindness? Why these statements?

The statements were undoubtedly strong. The messages of Jesus were strong, that was why! If we reflect closely to the statements of Jesus, He really meant well. He said these statements to stress His points. Fire maybe a devastating element but it has its uses; for cooking, for warming, and disinfecting, etc. But fire is also used to purify; to separate the impurities from valuable elements like gold. That is why we have a saying, "A test of fire is a test of gold!"

And that is the point of Jesus in the Gospel. He wanted to challenge His listeners to determine and make their stand. Christian life is absolute faithfulness and commitment to God. There are no compromises. Lukewarm life of faith is not acceptable. Either you are a fully committed and passionate faithful or none at all. The Kingdom of God is the only Kingdom. There is only one king, and that is Christ the King. The only way He can make them commit themselves was to challenge them with His Word and Deed. And the best would be if they will be put to test, i.e. to see themselves in the light of what He preached and witness to. He expressed His great concern when He wished that it had started already!

It is in this same context that He gave the other message of division and not peace. Following the Lord Jesus can not but put relationships to test. The teachings of the Lord would really subject relationships to test, at times destroying the peace and introducing division. The teachings of forgiveness, repentance, loving neighbor, morality, respect, detachment and others, nothing but create tensions in all relationships. It is the hope of Jesus that everyone will embrace Him. If not, then division, not peace will prevail. For the Lord Jesus, this is better than living in civility, lukewarmness, and toleration which is anything but merely allowing a peaceful co-existence among brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus would rather encourage people to be willing to abandon everything and everyone for the Lord rather than place everyone on the same level or at times compromise God Himself. Full faith in the Lord is required. Christian Peace is attained only in unity with God even when one is divided from everyone. Again, it is not the intention of the Lord to merely rock the boat for the sake of rocking it. He rocks it so as to place everyone where they should be. 

In the end, the ultimate purpose of Jesus iss to recover everybody to His fold. He will do everything even as far as jolting and putting in the heat on us. That is how much He cares for us. heaven will be very happy for every one person who would repent. Jesus would not settle for only one, ten, hundreds, thousands etc. He wants everyone. That was His promise to His Father, "No one was lost!".

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Saints are us!

Reflection on Lk. 10:1-9
Feast of St. Luke

St Luke Drawing a Portrait of the Madonna, WeydenWe honor today St. Luke, the Evangelist. He wrote one of the four known Gospels of Jesus Christ. He was also known as the man behind the book of the Acts of the Apostles. His symbol was the calf or the ox, the sacrificial animal, because he opened his Gospel with the story of Zachary and his son, John the Baptist. He was considered as an excellent writer because of his good command of the Hebraic and Greek languages and adeptness of their cultures.

His Gospel is very similar to Matthew in that they both focused on the "anawims" of society. The less fortunate widows, beggars, prisoners,and the sick found a defendant in St. Luke and his community. He was inspired to write the Good News for these people who had captured the attention of God. The sending of the apostles in the Gospel reading today reminds us of our task as Christians. As Christians, we are being sent to bring the Good News of salvation to the needy. In the Beatitudes, Jesus clarified that blessedness does not consist in one's status but how and why that status is lived! Being rich, happy, or free do not necessarily mean blessedness. In the same way, being sad, poor, or enslaved do not necessarily mean being cursed. When the above are lived in faith and because of God, then one is blessed. When the above are lived against the very Will of God, then one is cursed. These are some of the messages why a Christian is being sent. Other important Christian teachings are forgiveness, peace, love, justice, and hope. Luke, a Christian, wrote all of these in his account of the Gospel.

The proclamation of the Gospel is also characterized by urgency. Jesus stressed that those who are sent should act with alacrity and concern. In fact, if there are people who would not readily accept the Good News, do not waste time with them. Rather, the one sent should go to the next person or community. In this case, more people will be given the opportunity to hear, understand, and live the Good News of salvation.

The apostles, the prophets, the Gospel writer, and the priest are not the only one's sent. Every Christian, by virtue of their Baptism, has that responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. The best way is to live those messages. The apostles had given us an example that we must imitate. This is the main reason why we remember them and celebrate their feasts. The mass Preface for Holy men and Women states, "You are glorified in your saints, for their glory is the crowning of your gifts. In their lives on earth You give us an example." Praising them for what they did is secondary. The lives lived by saints like St. Luke are being given emphasis because they had not really left us like the Lord, but are continually guiding us from heaven, " Through the apostles You watch over us and protect us always. You made them shepherds of the flock to share in the work of Your Son, and from their place in heaven they guide us still.", says the priest in the Preface for the Apostles. What they had achieved, we are also expected to achieve. What they had achieved, we can also achieve in our own way. God made holy men and women from the beginning. Sin just entered and embraced by them. But God gives us the grace to recover our original blessing. The holy men and women also went through that same route. Sin can be defeated. Holiness can be recovered. Thanks for saints like Luke. We can be like them too!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No substitute For Vigilance

Reflection on Lk. 12:35-38

lSeven Straight Nights: Vigil candles by quixoticlife.

Vigilance! Vigilance! Vigilance! This is what the Lord Jesus is stressing in the Gospel today. He is reminding His disciples of His First Coming (Christmas) and preparing them for His Second Coming (Day of Judgment). There was a time when God became one like us, in Jesus Christ, in order to save mankind. The Jews were told about this through different messages from the prophets. The Jews were called to prepare for that First Coming. Unfortunately, that First Coming came in an unexpected manner. They believed that God will come like a great warrior from heaven and one by one annihilate the forces of evil. But God did not come that way. He came on a silent night and a holy night. Jesus was not recognized by the Jews as the promised messiah. That is why there are still Jews today who await the Messiah! But for us, Jesus is the messiah who fulfilled the promises made in the Old Times times.

As Jesus said in the Gospel accounts, the Second Coming will be so swift that you do not have time to go down from the roof or go home from the field. It will be in an unexpected manner; like a thief in the night. The Lord Jesus would not want us to just act when the time is near. The element of not knowing when He would come is for our own good. As human beings, we tend to procrastinate some of the things we want to do and wait for the last opportunity to come. We can not cram our relationship with God. Relationship with God can not be deepened in an instant. Salvation can not just be decided on last minute decisions. Not knowing when the Lord will come will help us actively anticipate His coming. We are encouraged to pray, do acts of charity, and make sacrifices while we are waiting. So that when the Lord comes, He will recognize us and invite us to join Him to His Father in heaven. St. Paul, in his letter to the early Christians admonished them to continue their lives and not to abandon everything for prayer and passive waiting in temples. For him, waiting is living your daily life in the Spirit of the Lord. He went as far as decreeing that those who will not work will not eat in order to stress his point.

As a line in a song says, " We may never pass this way again. Whatever good we must do; we must do it now!" We must live our lives according to the purpose of God here and now. There is urgency in fulfilling what God wanted us to achieve. This is what Christian vigilance is about. We are good servants who patiently and enthusiastically await our Master. When He comes, we would be happy to present to Him that all He had expected us to do had been done. When He comes, we would humbly tell Him that we just did what He commanded. When He comes, we are ready to do whatever He will further command. The vigilant Christian has the satisfaction of his Master always in mind.

Twice a year this is being reminded of us in a very special way. During Lent, we enter into a reflective zone. we examine ourselves and see how we stand before the Lord. We anticipate the celebration of the triumph of the Lord Jesus in His Resurrection. We re-affirm our commitment to Him who merited for us eternal life even when we were still sinners. His dying on the cross was His ultimate act of fulfilling His Father's Will and gaining for us our freedom from sin. During Advent, we again enter into another reflective atmosphere. This time, we trace back the events before the birth of the Lord Jesus and identified ourselves with the people of Israel who were aching for the coming of the Messiah. Maranatha ("Come, Lord Jesus!) was their prayer. It was an expression of their longing for the their God who they felt abandoned them when they were in captivity. But, later, God heard their prayer. Jesus was born to bring good tidings and peace to mankind. In both events, vigilance was exercised by God's people. There is no doubt about His coming. There were always doubt whether He would find His people eagerly awaiting His coming. There were doubts about the worthiness of His people when He comes. This is the point of Jesus when He told His disciples to be vigilant. He wanted that when He comes, we are prepared and worthy. There is no substitute for it.

With God, We Have Everything

Reflection on Lk. 12:39-48

After stressing the need to be vigilant, the Lord continued with the price of vigilance or non-vigilance. This just means that we can not take for granted the command of the Lord to anticipate His coming actively. We can not just sit down and wait for Him to come. We have so much to do and the measure of what we have done or not done will result to a consequence.

This is very clear in the Gospel today. Apparently, there are levels of rewards and punishment. Those who know the Will of God but did not do them will suffer severely. Those who did not know but still acted worthy of a severe punishment will be given lighter punishments. But those who prepared, acted on God's Will, and were responsible will be fully rewarded. These are good incentives and just arrangements. These must be the minima in order that we will not be caught red-handed or surprised come judgment day. It is really a reflection and proof of God's everlasting love. He does not want us to be left outside the Kingdom. If threatening us would be effective in making us vigilant, then so be it.

But this is not the best way, or the maximum. We must be vigilant not because we are afraid of the punishment or we want the reward. Our relationship with God must rise to the level of a loving relationship. This means that our love for Him is not based on reward. Our following His Will is not based on the graces we will be worthy of. Our preparations are not dependent on the punishment or good consequences we will receive. The best servant does not work because of the reward. The best servant sees his service to His master as its own reward. This is how we must see our relationship with God. Being vigilant only for the sake of avoiding punishment does not merit us fullness of life. It is merited by an honest and pure love of God regardless of consequences.

This is very tangible in everyday life. Children relate to their parents based on rewards and punishment. But parents do not want their children to remain in that situation. The aim of parents is to let them graduate from that kind of attitude in the relationship. Parents hope that they will be obeyed not because of what they will give but because children would see the reminders and commands they give as expressions of their love for their children. Parents pray that their children would see their presence as companionship and guardianship and not like the police or detectives waiting for them to commit mistakes and later catch and punish them. Parents wish that children would see that heeding them is a good life in itself. in other words, we must not just be contented with the graces God will give but God Himself who is Grace! When we have God, we have everything. 

Jesus saw that we can begin with being afraid of the bad consequences of being lax and not vigilant. If it will make us be aware of what we will lose, then it is good enough. Jesus also saw that we can be inspired by receiving good rewards. If these rewards will keep us back in the right track, then so be it. But Jesus also hopes that our acts would not be based on rewards and punishments but on having a good relationship with God. To be united with Him is the best situation for us. In that situation, every act is inspired not by any punishment or reward but by the experience of God's presence. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

God Gives What Is Best Always and Freely

Reflection on Lk. 18:1-8
Great Wall of China
The parable seems to give the message that we need to be persistent with God. Just as the wicked judge gave in to the persistent widow, God will also give in to our persistence. Some spiritual writers had stressed the same; bombard heaven with prayers, they said. Pray even to the point of flooding God with our petitions. God, after much pressure and compassion from us, would finally give in. There might be a grain of truth there but we have to realize that prayer or our relationship with God is not always, in fact, is rarely that way.

We have to take into consideration the grace we ask from God. If what we ask for is not good or against the very nature of God, then it can not be given no matter how persistent we are. What happens if it is good? It is still dependent on God. God knows best. Even if we believe that what we ask for is the best, it may not be for God. So why persist? Actually, the point of the parable is not about persistence. It is about the judge who was wicked and yet he gave in to the pleading of the widow. Jesus gave a desperate and extreme situation to highlight His message. He depicted the judge as having no fear of God nor respect for human being. A judge from whom you can not expect anything. Asking desperately for a favor from the judge is a widow, who was considered the least and the last in society at that time. The widow does not have any money. power, or influence to obtain her favor. In other words, she would be the last person who can ask for any favor. The picture is now complete. A wicked judge being sought by a powerless widow. More or less, the hearers of Jesus know what will happen to the case of the widow. To their surprise, the widow prevailed upon the dishonest and wicked judge!

After telling them the parable, Jesus shifted to the goodness of His Father. He reminded His listeners about what God will do for us. The message is; if that judge, who was wicked gave in to the persistent widow, how much more God who is good? If the widow needed persistence to obtain her grace from the judge, we do not need to before God because He does know what we need and therefore does not need our persistence at all!

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Spirit To Turn To

Reflection on Lk. 12:8-12

The beginning of this Gospel talks about acknowledging God. Surely, Jesus is not saying that God is lacking in or needs recognition from us. God is perfect and full in Himself. Further, what will the recognition and praise of a mere creature like us do to God? Nothing! God has no need of it. He asks for it for our own good. Truth is, as in thanksgiving, our acknowledgement of God is for our salvation. When we acknowledge God we become more aware of who we are. It makes us humble and see our limitations. We accept our dependence on God. We accept that we need His guiding presence to deal with the challenges of Christian life.

Foremost of these needs is the need for discernment and wisdom. The worst thing that can happen to any human being is to dissociate himself from God. When he comes to believe that he can live life by himself and does not need God's assistance, he had committed the greatest blunder. Guidance by the Spirit is necessary. We can not do without it. We have sealed our fate when we decide to severe our ties with the Spirit. This is the essence of Jesus' warning that a denial of the Son of Man maybe forgiven but a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. There was a time when the act of suicide (killing oneself) was believed to be the act being referred to by this Gospel. There is some truth to it in the sense that killing oneself is a clear sign of desperation and hopelessness. These two attitudes are against the very inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In those situations, our only hope is the help of the Holy Spirit. It can not come from anybody or anywhere. When one rejects even the very inspiration of the Spirit; change, repentance, and hope, can not anymore penetrate a person and therefore renders him separated from God. The rejection of the Spirit is considered blasphemy in the sense that it is a rejection of God Himself.

This is further elaborated when we are being persecuted. God does not abandon us during those trying times. He promised the guidance of His Spirit and would go as far as assisting us with our defense and what we are to say. And this is the ultimate point of our Lord Jesus. God is always with us as He promised when He came and when He left. Jesus, Emmanuel (God with us!), had given us His Spirit to make His presence always felt. It is our responsibility to always seek the guidance of the Spirit. It is our responsibility to heed its promptings and go where it blows. To do otherwise, much more to completely shut it out of us, would be blasphemous!


Honesty With God Is The Best Policy

Reflection on Lk. 12:1-7

Accountability is one trait that is lacking in the present generation. A lot of people seem to be getting away with anything; corruption, traffic violations, frauds in many institutions, malpractices, debts, crimes, deceptions, lies, and many more. Name it and most probably someone, at least, had gotten away with it. Honesty is not anymore the best policy, rather, it has become "not being caught"!

Today's Gospel is not anymore a revelation especially for us Christians but a strong reminder about the life we live. It reminds us that nothing is hidden. God, who is all-knowing, is aware of everything that we had done. He can see through our person. He knows what are our intentions and purposes. This fact is very relevant because we tend to live as if there are things that we can hide and get away with. "There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known." We can tremble in fear knowing this if we had done and are continuously doing a lot of sins. But we marvel in anticipation of the final day if we are striving to live a holy life always. This is the best way to approach life, according to the Lord. To live a life hiding and evading the public eye is very tiring and agitating. Besides, there are a lot of good feeling and peace in doing what is good and holy. Others may claim that they had a lot of satisfaction savoring the things they had acquired even via the wrong way, but it is always fleeting. The lingering suffering and anxiety are not worth it. This is further complicated and made difficult when repentance is finally ached for. Having been enslaved by sin, human effort alone is not enough. God, in His Spirit, is the needed presence to make it happen.

That is why we must never be duped by and fall under the snare of Satan. Jesus further said , " I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more." It is Jesus who is our friend. It is Jesus who will help us. It is Jesus who will see us through everything in life. Satan is cunning in the sense that he makes use also of "spiritual" things in the guise of material things. If we are not careful and discerning, we can be trapped and victimized. I know of a doctor who use to  have a good life with his family, friends, and profession. Suddenly, he became a very popular and sought after doctor. Nothing wrong with being successful. But, his popularity, money, and prestige had opened a lot of "temptation gates" for him. His family time had been greatly affected. He became choosy with his patients. He was lax in his commitments. In other words, he had changed; and the changed was not really for the better. Worst of all, he acquired a mistress! After realizing what had happened in his life, he wanted to change. He told me that his life was better without the popularity, money, and fame. I told him that it was not the money, prestige and popularity but a lack of discernment and commitment to priorities. Satan had been successful in luring him to sin via those material progress. My doctor friend would not be hurt by those things, but his attitude towards them. With the right attitude, he can even make use of those things to advance goodness and have the best of life too. This is the point of the Lord Jesus when He warned us about those who can hurt us spiritually. That is always Satan's objective. And he will make use of everything we have to achieve that purpose.

The Lord Jesus assures us that He loves us. He assures us of His care. We are His best creation. But He needs us to be honest with Him. Having a relationship of honesty and trust would allow God to pour out all His blessings for us and thus make us the person He wanted us to be. If not, we can not get away with it when we face Him the way we are getting away with things here on earth. Accountability also happens in God's Kingdom.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cooperation, Not Separation Of Church And State

Whenever convenient, politicians and opinion makers, would cite the Gospel scene between Jesus and His enemies where He was asked if it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. The context of the question was to trap Jesus with His answer so they could arrest Him. If He answered that they should pay taxes, He will be accused of siding with the Romans who were then ruling the Jews and were exacting severe taxes to them. If He answered no, then He will be under fire from the Roman government for disobeying their law. The present idea of "separation of Church and State" was not in the mind of Jesus when He answered, "Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what is to God." It is interesting to note that Jesus, the Herodians, and the Pharisees were not concerned and conscious about "separation of Church and State". They were just after entrapping Jesus. But Jesus always take advantage of the situation by raising the issue to the next level. The Romans believed that their Caesar is divine. The response of Jesus differentiated the Roman Caesar to God. Repaying means something was owed. The Jews must render taxes because the Romans provide them with services expected of a government. The allegiance of the Jews to the Romans were limited. In the measure that the Roman government rightly serve the Jews, the Jews repay them. But if the Romans would be bad rulers, the Jews have a right to disobey or not pay any taxes. Jesus was a good citizen. He paid His taxes. He was not a source of problem to the Romans. Even Pilate saw nothing against Jesus. In the life of the early Christians, Peter even admonished the people to respect their leaders because God willed their leadership. Being a good citizen is part of the teaching of Jesus. To be a good Christian is to be a good citizen too.

But it does not end there. There are qualifications and nuances. Not everything can be done for Caesar. Caesar or any earthly leadership is limited. The Caesar is not absolute. They can not be in equal footing with God. No matter how powerful they are, they are still below and under God. As leaders, people owe them their allegiance. But if they are abusive and are asking their constituents to do things against what their God asks them to do, they have a right not to obey. Rendering what is to God takes priority over rendering what is to Caesar. In pointing out the difference, Jesus asked the people to give Him a coin. Because the image and inscription of Caesar was there in the coin, then the coin must be rendered to Caesar. God has no coin but He has something that has His image. Genesis tells us that we were created in the image and likeness of God. Also, all of creation was made by God and therefore possess God's image. Therefore, God owns everything and everything must pay allegiance to Him. Even Caesar belongs to God and therefore is under and dependent to God.

So, even if it was not intended by Jesus, His answer tells us that God has something to do with all His creation. Therefore, if there is any one who should invoke the response of Jesus, it should be the Church and the faithful and not those leaders who question the role of the Church in the affairs of government. The moral standard of the Church is needed by the State. Without the Church, the State can not sustain itself. Much more, it can not exist in a democracy.

In as much as the Church and State serve almost the same constituents, especially here in the Philippines, it would be for the benefit of the citizenry and the faithful if both institutions will cooperate. The resources of government and the moral ascendancy of the Church are perfect ingredients for a prosperous and morally dignified people. The un-cooperation between the two will only result to the disadvantage and difficulties of those under their care. Leaders must recognize the role the Church plays in a country. Church leaders, on the other hand, must assert their responsibility of constantly reminding government leaders to fulfill their responsibilities according to their faith and laws. if all of these happen, then, that country is really "For God and Country!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

God Is In The Heart

Reflection on Lk. 11:47-54

Jesus continues His denunciation of the Pharisees and the scholars of the law. He added two more issues against them. The first being His assault on their honoring the prophets by building them a memorial place when they are dead but persecute them while they were alive. Their act, according to Jesus, was a sign of their consent on what their ancestors had done. It thus fulfilled the wisdom of God that they will be charged with the blood of them they will persecute. The second was against the scholars of the law who, instead of educating and enlightening the people about he law, were guilty of obstruction because they have taken away the key to knowledge. The "teachers" became responsible for the ignorance of their people.

The Lord Jesus is consistently pointing out the ironies being committed by the leaders of His time. They honor whom they killed. They made ignorant whom they are supposed to educate. Their irresponsibility had led to further rejection of Jesus which would result to the mounting hostility against him and later plot something that will lead to His arrest. Inconsistencies, bad examples, and other forms of show offs that mislead and confuse people. Too much of external concerns  led to the neglect of the internal disposition.

The journey towards holiness begins inside us. If we are to find God in our neighbor and in all creation, we must first look in our hearts. "Our heart is restless until it rests in You!" (St. Augustine). Once we acknowledge the presence and reign of God in our hearts, all our thoughts and actions should be inspired and powered by that condition. Our respects, honor, appreciation, recognition and praises will come from the heart. They will not be empty words and actions, rather, meaningful and fruitful gestures. They are valuable not because of their material and visual content but because of their spiritual and essential origin.

The Lord Jesus showed this in the story of the widow's mite in the Gospels. After the rich had put their gifts, the widow put her two mites. The Lord saw what happened and said, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."(Lk. 21:3-4). What made the Lord Jesus praise the widow was not because of her poverty, but because she gave not from surplus but from the heart. The rich gave gifts out of surplus that did not really merit much before the Lord. The Lord Jesus gives the very important message that what really counts is the heart we put with whatever we do. The beauty of this is that we are all capable of it. God gave all of us a heart. All we have to do is to see to it that everything we do must come from it. And because God is in our hearts, we will do things according to His Will. And when we do His Holy Will, we are assured that we have done not only what is right but what will save!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

All Because Of God

Reflection for Lk. 11:42-46

In fulfilling His ministry, Jesus was not afraid in denouncing the leaders of His time. His priority was the fulfillment of His mission. First things first and important things must be addressed. He saw how the Pharisees and supposed teachers of the law overlook or take for granted the more essential things in life and faith. The Pharisees thought that fulfillment of the obligation on tithes is enough, much worse, to regard it as a replacement for loving God. The love of God through love of neighbor had been neglected. Further, having seats of honor and being greeted in public places were given preference over service and fulfillment of the responsibilities attached to the titles. Even the scholars of the law were not spared by Jesus when He pointed out that they were willing to make laws that were burdensome to the people but were unwilling to lift one finger to touch them.

Jesus was not against rituals that would help people experience more the love and presence of God. He was not against laws that would make life more orderly. But He hates them if they were made just for show and for the sake of having them alone. Life and faith are about being and becoming. We are not here only to exist but to attain the purpose God has for us. Earthly life is just part of life's journey. Our destiny is to be with God in His Kingdom. Therefore, any ritual or law must improve one's life and relationship with God. Otherwise, the rituals and laws would just be activities devoid of meaning and worthy fruits.

Prayer, for example, is a very important act of worship. Even Jesus prayed and instructed us to pray. But it must find fulfillment in our daily life. When we pray for forgiveness, we must be willing to go and ask forgiveness. And, having experienced forgiveness, we must be ready to forgive others too! We also profess to love God and neighbor. But it is not enough. We must be attentive to someone in need. We must be available to share what we can in order to extend to them our love. In all of these, we bear in mind and fill our hearts with the thought that we are doing this to God.

Christian life is not limited to pious acts of worship. It must go with charitable works in all kinds; material, emotional, temporal etc. God created us as a humanity to live as a community. He designed creation as dependent on each other. We can not attain our end with mere thoughts and words. God Himself accompanied His Word with Deeds. When He speaks, it happens. The same way with us. Our salvation is achieved in sincere words made flesh. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Power Of Giving Alms

Lk. 11:37-41

Time and again, Jesus would be mentioned by the Gospel authors as having access to the minds and hearts of people around Him. In the Gospel, He criticized the pharisees for being externally clean but were internally impure. He cited the plunder and evil they had done beneath their perfect fulfillment of external rituals. For Jesus, the external acts should be connected with the internal disposition. Words are not enough. Actions make it better. But intentions make it perfect and effective.

Jesus, who is always interested in helping people get out of their predicament, advised the pharisees. He told them to give alms and they will be cleaned. What about giving alms? Giving alms had been a very old way of doing acts of charity. During Ash Wednesday, the Gospel reading is about the three acts to be done by every Christian throughout Lent; praying, fasting, and giving alms (charity). This Gospel alone gives us an idea of how important is alms giving. It does not only invite generosity but also encourages sacrifice on the part of the giver. But more importantly, it addresses the need of a poor neighbor. It responds to the call of God to be a neighbor to your neighbor. What happens is that the act benefits the receiver physically and hopefully the gesture leads him to the appreciation of his neighbor's goodness and ultimately to God's everlasting love. But alas, according to the Lord Jesus, it benefits also the receiver not only in the satisfaction of having helped a neighbor in need but being given the grace of salvation!

Cardinal Rosales' "Pondo ng Pinoy" stresses this. "Ano mang magaling, kahit maliit, basta't malimit, patungong langit!" (Anything that is good, no matter how little, if done habitually, leads to eternal life!). It is based on the Gospel of Lazarus and the rich man. The rich man, all his earth life, never gave Lazarus anything in spite of him always at his gate waiting for a little mercy. The dog did better by licking his wounds! As the story goes; Lazarus died and went to heaven. The rich man also died but went to hell. The point of the parable of Jesus is that Lazarus went to heaven because he endured and accepted his situation. He did not do anything evil in order to free himself from his poverty. It was not his poverty but his faithfulness that brought him to the bosom of Abraham. On the other hand, the rich man met his fate not because he was rich but because he was lacking in generosity. Had he given Lazarus a piece of bread even the size of a crumb, out of his goodness, he would have merited heaven. But he did not. Jesus had shown here that giving alms, no matter how small, if done sincerely, may lead one to heaven. In the case of the Pharisees, Jesus told them that it would be enough to make them clean!

The beauty of the teaching of Jesus is the fact that everyone is capable of generosity. Everyone is capable of giving alms. We can quote from the Plenary Council of the Philippines document which states, " Nobody is so poor that he can not give. Nobody is so rich that he will not be in need!" If giving alms leads to salvation, then everyone can be saved.

Jesus, the Medium and the Message.

Lk. 11:29-32

Why was Jesus angry at the people who were only asking for a sign? What is wrong with asking for a sign? Is that not a sign of more interest in understanding the message given? Was Jesus being so strict and irritable? if he is so concerned about the people understanding His message, why not just give a sign?

Life is full of signs. Everyday we use signs. In fact, we can not live without them. Letters, for example, are signs. Combined, they further lead us to another message. Letters e, s, a, e, s, g, and m, has no clear meaning for us. But when we re-arrange them in to m, e, s, s, a, g,and e, and combine them to form a word, they will give us (a)  "message". What were letters before, our mind was able to formulate an idea equal to the meaning of the word "message". Our actions, our words, our dresses, and others; all of them are signs. Colors, shapes, textures, etc. are not just used for their sake but to give a message. They operate as signs. 

The words and deeds of the Lord Jesus are signs. They are signs of the power and authority of God. jesus used them to reveal to them Himself and His Father. At this point, He had already spoken so many words and did so many miracles. For Him, more than enough to recognize Him and understand His message. Comparing them to the people of Nineveh who only had Jonah and the Queen of the South who only had Solomon, the people in Jesus' time have the best sign in Jesus! If they already have the best and perfect sign before them, why are they still asking for another sign? The point of Jesus was, other signs are inferior to Him. If they could not get the message in Jesus, then, there is no way they could get the message from another.

The Lord Jesus saw in them their rejection of Him. They had closed their eyes and hearts from Jesus that Jesus could not anymore do or show anything that will make them believe Him. That is evil! The greatest sin is the rejection of Wisdom. The greatest sin is the resistance to open one's person to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only when you allow the Spirit to inspire, can you let God's graces enter you and lead you to the understanding of a sign. In this case, it is the recognition of the best and perfect sign, that is, the Lord Jesus.

We are more fortunate than the people of Nineveh and the Queen of the South for having the Lord Jesus as our sign. With Jesus, we have both the medium and the message. We do not have any reason to ask for any more signs. Jesus must be enough because He is God's Son and in Person!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gratitude Saves

Reflection on the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 10, 2010
Lk. 17:11-19

"Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine?" This was the reaction of the Lord Jesus when only one, a Samaritan leper at that, returned to give thanks to Him for healing them of leprosy. For a Jewish listener to this story, this is very embarrassing. A Jew, not a Samaritan, is expected to do good acts or to get the limelight. The Jews are not the chosen people for nothing! The Gentile people, like the Samaritan, are to benefit later.

Jesus had made so many miracles to many and none was recorded to have gone back or had been required by Him to give thanks. We asked, why, in this case, He asked from the others? What kind of healing was done? In the minds of the Jews, healing the body is also healing the soul. The Jews believed that sicknesses were caused by the sins of the person. Lepers were thrown out of the city or located away from society because they were considered dirty not only physically but also spiritually. In one healing incident, the Lord Jesus healed a lame person by saying that his sins are forgiven. The Jews reacted by accusing Him of blasphemy. The Lord responded by instead telling the lame man to pick up his mat and walk. In any case, both were achieved. For the Jews, the two commands meant the same.

Going back to the healed lepers, the question is, "Were they healed only physically or also spiritually? The answer is yes. When the Lord Jesus heals, He heals in both levels. But gratitude is also very important as shown by this incident. In response to the gratitude of the Samaritan leper, Jesus told him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you!" This means that while the other nine were given the benefit of healing, we can not really determine the extent of their healing. Nothing was heard about them. This is similar to the rich young man who came to Jesus to seek eternal life. Jesus told Him to sell everything and follow Him. Because he was very rich, he went away sad. He was so attached to his riches that following the Lord without them is not enough. He was so enslaved by it that eternal life was not worth it. But we know what happened to the grateful Samaritan leper. From the very words of Jesus, he was saved. His faith and his gratitude brought about that situation.

This incident also tells us that gratitude is really for the grateful than God. God, in truth, does not need our thanks. He is complete by Himself and He can be without our gratitude. But the gratitude is really for us. When we are thankful, we enter the realm of salvation. In recognizing the goodness of God, we get its full benefit. In expressing our appreciation of what He had done to us, He makes us more worthy and recipient of more graces.

Thank you Lord for all the graces You had given. Thank You Lord for all the answered prayers. And thank you Lord for the unanswered ones too!

Monday, October 6, 2008

God's Good Hands

Reflection on Lk. 11:27-28

Jesus always has a surprise coming for those who follow Him. In the Gospel today, they thought they had already grasped fully the person of Jesus by praising the womb that carried Him. But Jesus would always raise it to the highest level. Not that He disregarded the praise given to His mother who gave birth and nursed Him, but He wanted His disciple to realize that blessedness is not determined by blood or biological relationships. The mere connection or relation with God is not enough.

"Rather, Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and live it." This is not the first time we heard Jesus say who is blessed. In the Beatitudes He enumerated who are blessed. The common idea of being blessed is to have many things in this earth. For example riches, power, authority, relationships and other things that are important and treasured in this world. Unfortunate is one who does not or are wanting of those things. But here, the Lord Jesus corrects that idea. To be blessed for Him is to be a hearer and follower of the Word of God. This is further understood in the Beatitudes where those who are in prison, poor, meek, crying, rejected and other known "anawims" of society maybe blessed! The blessedness is not in one's status but in how it is lived. You maybe poor but if you are poor because of your faithfulness to God (not wanting to acquire riches by stealing, deceiving, or killing), you are blessed. In other words, if you are experiencing a challenging and hard situation as a result of your following God's Word, you are blessed. As Jesus said in the Gospel today, the blessedness is in the living of the Word that is heard. In the same way, even if you are rich, happy, free, and popular, you can blessed if you have attained those status as a result or while you are living your faith.

Therefore, we can not be comfortable of the sacraments we have received just because we have received them. Together with the reception of those sacraments are the graces that will help us be sanctified. Together with the gift of the sacrament are the tasks to live them. Thus, a baptized Christian must make his life always in accordance with the life exemplified by Jesus. A recipient of the forgiveness of God in the sacrament of reconciliation must try hard not to sin anymore and prove to God he is worthy of the forgiveness. A participant in the Eucharist must be aware of the presence of Christ in his life when he received the Lord in communion. The sacrament of marriage makes the couple as another witness to the love of Jesus to the Church and vice versa. Depending on the graces of the sacraments, the Christian is expected to live them and not just be contented with having received them and expect it to "magically" transform him.

Let us not just be Christians by name. Let us live up to our names. "Christian" means a follower of Christ. Following Christ can only happen if we have heard His Word, understood it, and live it. The parables of the sower and the house built on rock also teach this message. Because it is God's Word, then it must be Good, True, and Right. No matter how difficult it can be at times, our best move is still to follow it. And in doing so, we will be in the best of hands because it is the hand of God!

Discernment versus Deception

Reflection on Lk.11:15-26

Jesus met almost every kind of resistance during His ministry. In any generation, what He had done would have been met with so much appreciation and awe. But it is understandable that the Jewish community where Jesus walked and lived was being threatened of their belief and leadership. Add to this the difficulty of a God becoming human! Therefore, it is but normal that they would cast every doubt they could muster against Him.

The incident in the Gospel today is one of the worst attacks against Him. He drove out a mute demon from a person. Instead of being praised for what He had done, they accused Him of having done it by the very power of Beelzebul, the prince o demons! They are really desperate in discrediting Jesus. Jesus could not believe it. But He knew well this desperation against Him that even the most evil reason would be thrown at Him. In response, He turned the table against them by asking them "by whom do your own people drive them out?" If they believe that only Beelzebul is capable of doing what Jesus did, then it follows, that their own people are also able to do it because of Beelzebul? 

It was a clear case of rejection of Jesus no matter what. Whatever Jesus did, they will always have a reason even if the reason is twisted or forced. Jesus was just unwanted and unwelcome, plain and simple. He was a threat to their leadership and He was already becoming very popular, too popular for their comfort.

Jesus took advantage of the situation to proclaim the Good News to them. He challenged them that they may think what they want of Him but He would hold them responsible if it was not true that He was driving our demons by the power of Beelzebul but by the "finger of God"! Jesus used this figure of speech to send the message that He was acting by the power of God. A "finger" may represent part or whole of a human being. But in this case, it represents the whole of God's power! The people were given by Jesus a choice; to hang on to their accusation which they know is a lie or to finally accept Him because He comes by God's power and authority.

Maybe, so many times, we are confused by the things happening around us. True, it is not anymore easy who are telling lies. It is not easy anymore who is doing what. It is not that clear anymore what is real and what are deceptions. Externalities can never be the sole criteria for judgements. There was a time when anyone who wears a Filipino barong is regarded as a respectable man. Now, even criminals wear it while doing their crimes. Bare-headed males used to be seen as bad people because of their similarity with convicts for electrocution. But now, it is ,in fact, a fad among the rich and famous. Bare-headed now is cool! Advertisements use a lot of deceptions. If you are not careful, you maybe had by their come ons! There is a need to discern. We must take time and reflect about things that are put before us. St. Paul has a good advice on this. He tells us that we must look at the fruits. If the fruits are good, then it must have come from the good Spirit. Even in evaluating who to believe, we must not only consider their looks and reputation but more importantly, their lives (family, work, friends, etc) and achievements.

Let us avoid the mistakes of the people in Jesus' time. Because of their strong biased against Jesus and their inability to discern who Jesus really was, they forfeited the opportunity to welcome Jesus and be the chosen people that they were. The salvation that would have been theirs, slipped pass their hands.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

God is Being God, Not A Snob!

Reflection on Lk. 11:5-13

This is a further teaching of the Lord Jesus on prayer. He began with a parable of a persistent friend who finally prevailed upon a friend to give him what he needs. Then the Lord told His disciples that God will give them what they ask, find what they seek, and opens for those who knock. The clincher was the last part when He said that the Father, who is good, could never deprive us of His Holy Spirit if we ask for its presence. No father would give his child anything that will harm his child. Compared to us who are still able to give good gifts in spite of our wickedness, God, who is all good, will definitely respond to our prayers.

We usually hear the explanation that God always respond in His time and in His way. He answers our prayers with a "no" if it will not be good for us. He answers us with a "yes" if it is for our good and in accordance with His Will. He also answers "wait" if what we ask for is not yet due to us. God knows not only the best but the most appropriate for us. In prayer, trust in Him should be one of our main attitude. Therefore, we must never think that God does not care if and when we do not receive yet what we prayed for. We have to admit that there had been times when we have doubted God's presence and wisdom. As a result, we abandon our faith. We stop praying. We stop going to mass. We stop doing what is good. We just go on our way as if it will be God's loss and not ours. Yes, later, we realize that to go away was not the right response. Rather, the more our prayers are not happening the way we want them, the more we cling to God. The more we must seek Him. The more we must knock to Him. For without God, we are nothing! Our only way out of darkness is to seek the LIGHT! Our only course to reach our true destiny is to find THE WAY. Our only resort to be free from all lies is to embrace the TRUTH! And our only way to find the essence of our existence is to belong to LIFE Himself. Not that we would insist what we want but to immediately make ourselves available and open to the very first response He will give to our prayers. Only when we exercise that humility can we fully benefit from His goodness. In my prayer life, I have realized that, in fact, the responses of God which were initially unacceptable to me were the right responses. I was just too happy that God did not give what I had asked!

God is God. He will never give anything that is against His very being. Jesus gave a very good point about us and about God. As human beings we have weaknesses and wickedness. But in spite of these weaknesses and wickedness we still find the goodness in our hearts operative to people we love. The goodness in us that God had given is not forever defeated nor erased from our person. While we have been wicked at times, we are still basically good because it was God, who is Goodness, who created us. Therefore, it is not hard to see that God, who is Goodness Himself, would always give to us what is Good.

That is why, for a Christian, there is no prayer that is left unanswered. But God answers them in His way. And His way is the best way. There is never a moment when God is not present. There is not a time when God had taken us for granted. God is not a snob as many would think. In fact, He is the most caring and attentive. We are the ones who do not care. We are the ones who are not attentive. We are the ones who are snobs. We do not want to accept what He gives. Fortunately, God remains to be God. When He knows it will not be for our own good even if we want it, He will not give it.

Today, we also celebrate the feast Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. We recognize the message of our blessed Mother to pray the Holy Rosary. The Holy Rosary is a very good prayer because it is a reflection on the life of and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Praying the rosary makes us more aware of what God had done for us when we were still sinners. This love, when fully understood and appreciated, will tell us that God had never abandoned us but had done everything and the best in helping us be freed from the slavery of sin. Therefore, praying the Holy Rosary helps us understand God more and makes us trust and depend on Him more.

The next time you pray, express to God fully your feelings and pleadings. Communicate to Him your full dependence on His graces. Trust that He will respond in the best way at the best time. Commit that His answers (whether "no", "yes", or "wait") to your prayers would only make you closer and faithful to Him. In the end, prayer is not really about answers by God, but our responses to the answers of God to our prayers.

The Perfect Prayer

Homily for the Wednesday of the 27th week in Ordinary Time
October 6, 2010
Lk. 11:1-4

Communication is a necessity in life. Life is unimaginable without communication. Our mere existence is already a communication. It is much more important and necessary in faith. That is why, the anchor (Bernard F. Canaberal) in the daily program "Pamilya Muna" (DZRV Radio Veritas, 846 AM, 10:30 am-12 nn) would always ask their listeners at the beginning of the program, "Nagdasal ka na ba?(Have you prayed already?)" In the Gospel today, the disciples beg the Lord to teach them how to pray. They recognized that they need to always confer with God and seek His guidance if they are to fulfill their mission. The need to know how to pray is also everyone's need. How must we pray? The Lord Jesus responded by teaching them how to pray. And so, we have what is popularly called now as the "Lord's Prayer" or the 'Our Father". 

The Lord's Prayer is a perfect prayer. Not only because it came from the Lord who perfectly knows His Father, but because it contains the necessary elements of our prayer. The four essential elements of prayer are; Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. We come before God to give Him praise, to ask forgiveness and seek reconciliation, to express our gratitude and to beg for needed graces. The common reason for our prayers is the last one. We usually pray to ask from God. When was the last time we thank God? When was the last time we asked forgiveness from God? When was the last time we praised Him for the good things He had given us? Therefore we must be aware that communication with God should not only be because we need something but also because we want to maintain our communion with Him. Our God is not an idea. He is a Person whom we can relate to. We must always be conscious of having a personal relationship with Him. Communion and communication do not only constitute supplication but all other relational activities as well.

But mouthing these words is not enough. The pray-er must mean what he says and say what he means. It must be done with the right intention, feeling and attitude. Sincerity  must accompany prayer. They must not be regarded as "magic words" that would instantly obtain the intention asked as soon as they are uttered. The words were a result of the intention and experience of the pray-er. Thus, the prayer given by the Lord, though it could be prayed as it is, is really a guide to the perfect prayer. It gives us an idea of how we should communicate with God and what must be said in prayer.

At the beginning of the Lord's Prayer, He reminded us to follow God's Will. This, I believe is the essence of any perfect prayer. Coming before God's presence, we must set ourselves to follow His Will and not ours or another's. When we approach God, we must be aware that God is God and we are His creatures. Fr. Orbos said that there are only two truths in life; There is God and we are not Him! Very true and useful specially in prayer. This is because we many of us think that when we ask for something, we want that it will be given. Once given, we claim "answered prayer". When not given, "unanswered prayer". Where is God's Will? Better, when we pray, we ask God what we think is best for us. Then, leave it to Him on how, when, and where it will be given. That is what we mean when we say "Your Will be done."

When we pray this way, we will realize how powerful is this communication with God, our Father. The Lord Jesus had given us a way to the heart of His Father. The Lord Jesus had led us to the truths about the Father's Will. And the Lord had shown us how life must be lived according to His Father.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Contemplative in Action, the Best Part!

Homily for the Monday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time
October 4, 2010
Feast Of St. Francis of Assisi

Which is better, prayer or active service? To spend time with God or to go to the neighbor and do acts of charity? To kneel before God or to feel for the neighbor in need? These are the questions which the Gospel today clarifies before us. Jesus went to the house of the sisters Martha and Mary. Martha, the "busy body" immediately went about preparing the Lord's needs. Mary, the "listener" sat beside the Lord and attentively received His words. Martha complained that Mary was not helping her. Jesus responded by telling her that Mary's calm in spending time beside Him is better than her anxiety in serving the Lord.

Many of us can easily identify with Martha. Society had named achievements as the main standard of success. We are worthy persons if we are work-oriented. We are measured by your outputs and products. That can only be possible if we work, work, and work. Some people even work during Sundays and holidays so as to earn more and find more meaning in their lives. The well-liked and popular ones are those who had done many things and are always capable of doing something. Doing is seen as better than being.

It is for this reason that the statement of our Lord in response to Martha is shocking if not discouraging. Mary chose the better part! What did it make of Martha? Is not doing (serving) that is providing all the results and fruits? Did Jesus mean that we all stop working and go to the chapel, kneel before the altar, and spend most of our time there? No, that was not what Jesus meant. St. Paul was angry at the early Christians who abandoned their work and their families and just spent their time in the temple after the Lord Jesus went up to heaven. They were anticipating the coming again of the Lord as He promised before He ascended into heaven. But that was a misunderstanding of the Lord's command. While they were waiting for the second coming, they should go about their daily chores applying the Words of the Lord in their lives. St. Paul finally gave them an ultimatum, "Those who will not work, will not eat!". In the Gospel, the Lord Jesus wanted to stress the priority and foundation that spending time and listening to God give. Service must be based on a very deep communication with God. In the same way that a soldier would not go to battle without reporting to his commandant or an employee should not work without instructions from his boss, a Christian should never go on doing services without meeting with the Lord. No matter how certain we are of the good, it is always best to seek God's will in prayer before we do them. Equip with the Word and guidance of God, service has more meaning and direction. 

Jesus, in the Gospel, may have praised Mary in listening to Him rather than help Martha, but He did not mean that what Martha did was not necessary. If we are to avoid service without prayer, we must also avoid prayer without service. These are two extremes that have no place in the Christian faith. Service is good. Prayer is better. But contemplative action is the best! It consists in spending time first with God to know His Will and be guided by Him. After that communication with God, we now have the inspiration and source for a meaningful and worthy action. Work draws its meaning from prayer and prayer finds completion in work. Thus, it is not work or prayer, but prayer and work. God should always be a part of any work. Work should be the consequence of any prayer. That is why there are some social workers, those who are very much involved in helping the needy, who come to a point when they look for reason and inspiration for what they are doing. There is always the tendency to see the work as routine. A worker who is in constant communication with God will not get bored, see as routine, and lose meaning in what they are doing. For one who is contemplative in action, every day at work is a new day and another opportunity to help. It is always interesting and exciting. That is because the very reason for the work is anchored in His relationship with God.